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Money and Work Addiction

Money and work addiction, in some ways, can be just as harmful as substance addiction. In a society that prides the hard-working kind, it can be difficult to know when to stop. After all, working hard is respectable right? Not exactly.

Work and Money are commonly seen as ‘respectable’ addictions due the fact that the benefits are increases in financial independence and the ability to progress further in one’s career. However, when work completely overwhelms and takes away from a person’s life, it can become a serious problem.

Believe it or not, some people have worked themselves to death. Money is essential for our daily existence and unfortunately overworking can lead to depression and even substance abuse. An article on money and work addiction mentions how 21-year-old  Moritz Erhardt was found dead after a 72-hour stint of working at the financial management company Merrill Lynch. Some have even committed suicide due to work-related stress.

Money can alleviate the suffering associated with not have enough. As a society, money, for many, becomes  “the source of our security, success, happiness, peace, popularity, and prestige. If we have it, we will have life. If not we will forever be unfulfilled” (Courtney Bourns 1982).

Work and money addictions are known as process addictions and fall into the same bracket as eating disorders and gambling addictions.  Addiction professionals now recognize process addictions like gambling, porn addiction and shopping addiction as legitimate disorders, however it can be difficult to diagnose work or money related addictions

In an attempt to measure out relationship with money, Bonnie denDooven, a researcher with IITAP – the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals, developed a screen tool that identifies 16 different manifestations that play into our relationship with money.

Areas such as:

  • Money obsession
  • Problematic wealth
  • Under-earning
  • Deprivation
  • Money aversion (financial anorexia)
  • Adrenaline jobs
  • Dysfunctional relational attachment

While there are no accepted instruments to test these issues, practitioners can determine if a client has a problem dependent upon these seven questions:

  1. Tolerance: Does the client increase the amounts of their behavior overtime?
  2. Withdrawal: Are there withdrawal symptoms from ceasing this behavior?
  3. Continuation despite harm: Even with negative side effects such as physical, psychological, or financial harm, does the client continue the behavior?
  4. Loss of control: Is the client unable to control their behavior for long periods of time?
  5. Attempts to cut down: Has the client made conscious, but unsuccessful, efforts to reduce the behaviors?
  6. Salience: Does the client spend time planning, exhibiting, or recovering from the behavior and its effect.
  7. Reduced involvement: How has the behavior affected the client’s personal life? Has the client reduce involvement in family, social, and recreational activities due to the behaviors?

Money and work addiction stem from insecurity—a belief that we are not good enough. The belief drives us into addictive behaviors because we earn our validation from how much we can achieve and do.

Financial insecurity plays a huge role in our working behavior. A person obsessed with working and money may have struggled financially in the past and is striving to avoid that situation from reoccurring at all costs. Still, even after achieving financial stability, they may continue this working pattern in an addictive and compulsive manner.

There is a “rush” that money addicts feel when they think of making money and excelling in their occupation. Achievements release the happy ‘feel good’ chemical dopamine, as well as serotonin which are responsible for pride and status. However, when we experience loss, our brain releases cortisol, the chemical responsible for stress and anxiety. It can become a dangerous cycle


  • Shuts off our immune system
  • Creates paranoia
  • Inhibits release of oxytocin
  • Makes us less empathetic and generous.


  • Promotes Feelings of love, trust and friendship
  • Boosts immune system
  • Increases creativity
  • Inhibits addiction

As you can see, money can medicate our ‘less than’ feelings of insecurity but the danger is that this relationship can spin out of control. When working with money and love addiction, areas like denial, insecurity, depression, and compulsiveness are addressed often in a therapeutic setting.

Money does not always make us happy like we expect it to and making work and money your only priority can lead to many consequences. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Author: Shernide Delva

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